ENJOY THE MOVIES
"You're Birdman… Let's go back and show them what we're capable of." Last May, I got a call from Fox Searchlight inviting me to come down to the St. James Theatre on Broadway to visit the set of the new Alejandro González Iñárritu film. Setup like an actual play, complete with an audience and a set on the stage, I watched a few takes of a scene being filmed inside the famous Broadway theatre on 44th St. in New York City. Now over a year later the first teaser trailer for Birdman, the new Iñárritu film, has debuted and it looks incredible. Way better than even I was expecting, and I already have very high hopes for this film. But the set visit was a very fun experience, and the best part about it was watching the cameraman at work.
“My God, that’s a massive set,” I thought to myself as the small band of journalists in which I was included was led through the command centers and alien walkways making up the set of the sci-fi epic, Ender’s Game. Summit Entertainment and writer/director Gavin Hood have done the unthinkable, braving Orson Scott Card’s “unadaptable” work that has kept audiences young and old engrossed for nearly 30 years. A novel this grand with a history this dense demands a certain level of scope, and just from the first glimpse of the magnificent sets they had to show us, that required scope has absolutely been achieved.
By now, the big screen return of Arnold Schwarzenegger has only been seen as a supporting role in The Expendables 2, but the veteran action star will be back as the star of his own film The Last Stand, the English language debut of director Jee-woon Kim (of I Saw the Devil, The Good, the Bad, the Weird). In December of 2011, Lionsgate invited me to to Albuquerque Studios to check out the set. And when it comes to seeing the man from such films Terminator, True Lies and Predator in action, you just can't say no. And so I headed out to the normally sweltering state of New Mexico, but the weather isn't so warm in the winter, and that particular day, it forced what was supposed to be an on-location fight scene to a green screen set.
There is a list a mile long of different things that can kill you in the Louisiana swamps. Alligator. Snakes. The occasional run-in with a "True Blood" vampire. One item was added to that last in the Summer of 2010: Chainsaws. The man wielding that chainsaw is more often than not Leatherface himself, hacking up innocent civilians for his family's BBQ and doing a great job of it in many Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels. The results of his latest spree hit theaters Friday in Texas Chainsaw 3D. I was lucky enough to see firsthand on a hot, August night outside of Shreveport just what went into bringing a horror icon back.
Films have the ability to transport us back in time, visit places and see people we might never have known. In my case, I was fortunate enough to take part in one of these journeys in person as Warner Bros. invited myself and other writers to Miami, where director Adam Shankman had used some industrial streets of the city to recreate part of the iconic Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, but only as it was seen in the 80's for his adaptation of Rock of Ages. Big hair and fishnets roam the streets, leather clad bikers cruise by, and then there's Julianne Hough lip syncing her rendition of David Lee Roth's "Just Like Paradise." Read on!
"Regeneration, rather than evolve." As part of my on set experience in Istanbul to see the opening action scene of James Bond's Skyfall being filmed in Turkey, I was asked to be part of a roundtable interview with director Sam Mendes. A large group of press the day prior to visiting the set got to briefly ask the director questions about Bond 23, which is currently in the middle of shooting, with roughly 20 days of filming left until they're finished. Sam, who I think was an inspired choice to take on this latest Bond, reveals some interesting details regarding his motivation and where they're taking the story and the characters in Skyfall.
For as long as I can remember, as long as my dad has shown me movies, I've been a James Bond fan. I've seen all 22 multiple times, own well-worn copies of all of them on VHS, DVD, everything. Bond has always been one of my favorite series. I've dreamt of one day stepping into his world, visiting Pinewood Studios, but I never thought, one sunny April afternoon, that I would literally find myself standing on the set of a James Bond film. In the middle of an action scene. In the middle of a crowded marketplace in Eminönü in Istanbul… waiting for Bond to grab his Walter PPK and fire off shots. But somehow, this dream came true.
In 2010 I visited Mars. Well, not exactly the red planet 63 million miles away, only the set of John Carter, the live-action Andrew Stanton-directed adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic sci-fi stories. The actual location was in Big Water, Utah, right on the northern Arizona border. They had found natural red locations in the rocky, desert region that looked a lot like Mars already and built big sets to look like stone-carved buildings that had been there for hundreds of years. That was where we visited, and this was nearly two years ago in April of 2010, when Stanton and his crew were hard at work actually shooting the movie.
Stepping foot into a century old factory that once pumped out Model T cars, normally I'd feel like a troublemaker sneaking around abandoned buildings trying to pass the time. But in this case, we're walking onto the gritty, expansive set of Real Steel, an ambitious new film from executive producer Steven Spielberg and director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) starring Hugh Jackman and a whole slew of robots smashing each other to pieces in the boxing ring. On this particular day we're watching an unruly crowd in the underground robot boxing circuit cheering on a brutal fight between Midas and Noisy Boy.
Normally being in the middle of a junkyard watching two gorilla masked thugs verbally abuse and threaten a pizza delivery guy with an explosive vest strapped to his chest would be cause for concern. But in this case, the two thugs are Nick Swardson (Blades of Glory) and Danny McBride (Pineapple Express) and the unlucky guy with the bomb strapped to him is Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland), and I'm on the set of Ruben Fleischer's new action comedy 30 Minutes or Less, the follow-up to his 2009 hit film Zombieland. While there's no walking dead, there were plenty of laughs, f-bombs and much more we got to see on set. Read on!
Back in my high school days, it would have been quite an epic day if one of the students suddenly had their hands lighting up like headlights. But in Pittsburgh, this occurrence is totally normal, and met with quite an indifferent attitude. That's because this strange experience isn't happening in a real high school, but on one of the sets for the adaptation of the sci-fi novel I Am Number Four built inside an abandoned building of a technical college. All would seem normal if it wasn't for a huge film crew, and lead actor Alex Pettyfer running into a closet as his hands "light up like road flares" in a frantic state of mind. So what is going on?
Every time I set foot on the set of a movie, big or small, it's always a unique and unforgettable experience. Last June I was invited by Disney to travel to Vancouver to visit the set of Tron Legacy, which at the time was still a secretive project that hardly anyone knew anything about, besides that it was coming. Although it's still eight months away from arriving in theaters this December, we've now at least seen the first trailer, and as dark and incredible as it looks on the big screen, it was even more amazing standing on the huge deck of the "End of Line" club built inside of a massive sound stage (seen in photos above and below). Read on!